Department of Antiquities

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Ancient Cyprus in the Ashmolean Museum

Ashmolean Presentation

Ancient Cyprus: Chronology

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  Cyprus seems to have been first used by humans about 10,000 years ago, probably by a small group of people from the mainland who lived by hunting and gathering food. This period of Cyprus’ past has only recently been discovered and the Ashmolean collections do not contain any material from this very remote time.

The Ashmolean collections contain material representative of the span of human history on Cyprus, from the villages of the first farming communities of the Neolithic period to post-Medieval times. They do not contain any objects from the Ottoman or Modern periods.

The chronology of Cyprus is divided into the following periods:

Hunter-gatherer communities.  
    Neolithic (I, II)
c.7000 - c.4000BC
First farming communities and the first pottery made.  
    Chalcolithic (I, II) (Copper Age)
c.4000 - c.2600BC
First metal objects made on island, out of copper. The same period as the Minoan civilisation on Crete.  
    Early Bronze Age (I-III) (Early Cypriote Age)
c.2600 - c.2000BC
Bronze, a strong and versatile alloy of copper, was first used to make tools and ornaments. The technology possibly introduced by a group of immigrants from Anatolia.  
    Middle Bronze Age (Middle Cypriote Age).
c.2000 - c.1600BC
A short and relatively peaceful period when many villages were settled.  
    Late Bronze Age (I, II)
c.1600 - c.1050BC
Trade links with Egypt and Near East well established and Cyprus is prosperous for much of the period. The ‘Sea People’ are active in the eastern Mediterranean including Cyprus. The time of the Mycenaean period in Greece, which had a great effect on Cypriot culture.  
    Iron Age: Cypro-Geometric Age
c.1050 - c.750BC
Cypriot culture shows much influence from Greece. Contact with the Phoenicians from the 9th century.  
    Iron Age: Cypro-Archaic Age
c.750 - c.500BC
Period of the city-kingdoms despite the island being ruled by a succession of foreign countries for much of the period (Assyrians, from 709 BC; Egyptians, from c.570 BC; and Persians, from 545 BC).  
    Iron Age: Cypro-Classical Age
c. 500- c.325 BC 
Cyprus ruled by the Persians until their defeat by Alexander the Great of Greece in 333 BC. Cypriot cities then come under Greek rule.  
c. 325 - 30 BC 
The end of the period of city-kingdoms. Cyprus set free by Alexander the Great in thanks for their help in defeating the Persians. Unfortunately Alexander dies not long after and civil war follows. Cyprus was annexed by Egypt in 294 BC, and was a province under the rule of the Ptolemies until the death of Cleopatra VII in 30 BC (although annexed by Republican Rome in 58 BC)  
30 BC - AD 395 
Cyprus became a senatorial province of Imperial Rome in 30 BC, and remained under Roman rule until the division of the Roman Empire by Constantine the Great in AD 395. It was a prosperous and peaceful period.  
AD 395 - 1191
Cyprus was part of the Eastern Roman Empire, Byzantium, ruled from Constantinople. A 7th century agreement between Arabs and Byzantines allowed peaceful co-existence and prosperity for much of the period. The Crusades brought Western Europeans to Cyprus, which led to the end of Byzantine rule there.  
    Lusignan (Frankish)
AD 1191 - 1489
Cyprus was captured from its Byzantine ruler by Richard I of England in AD 1191 and purchased from him by Guy de Lusignan, the former Frankish "King of Jerusalem" in AD 1192. The Lusignian rulers established a feudal system on Cyprus, which was dominated by a wealthy French nobility. The last Lusignian ruler abdicated in favour of the Venetians in AD 1489.  
AD 1489 - 1571
The powerful Italian merchant city-state of Venice ruled Cyprus through a series of military governors. Despite heavily fortifying the island, Cyprus fell to Ottoman control in AD 1571.  
    Ottoman (Turkish)
AD 1571 - 1878
Cyprus was ruled as part of the Ottoman Empire until administration of the island was ceded to Britain in 1878 in return for assistance in the Russo-Turkish war.  
    Modern AD 1878 - Britain took over administration of Cyprus in 1878 and annexed the island in1914 after Turkey entered World War I as one of the Central powers. Cyprus became a Crown Colony in 1925, but started to gain limited self-rule after World War II. Full independence was achieved for the Republic of Cyprus in 1960.  
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